Artist: Song Ling
Curator: Xia Jifeng
Host: Today Art Museum
Support: Hive Center for Contemporary Art
Opening: July 26, 2014, 4:00pm
Duration: July 26-August 11, 2014
Location: 2F, Building No.1, Today Art Museum
Ghosts in the Mirror-Song Ling 1985-2013 is the first retrospective in China of Song Ling, one of the most important artists of the ’85 New Wave art movement. The exhibition systematically and comprehensively presents the works of this artist in an attempt to recreate the “history” of Song Ling and his art. The exhibition comprises roughly 200 artworks and large amounts of documentary materials spanning every period in the artist’s three decades’ career. Ghosts in the Mirror-Song Ling 1985-2013 provides a unique view into this individual artist while also sifting through the threads of the early development of Chinese contemporary art, presenting the interior conceptual side of this historic art movement and of the artist as an individual.
Song Ling was born in Hangzhou in 1961, and entered into the Chinese Painting Department of the Zhejiang Academy of Art in 1981. Upon graduation, he did not continue with the traditional creative thinking of Chinese painting but instead grew interested in Western Surrealism and Pop Art. His series People-Pipelines was featured in ’85 New Space, one of the most important exhibitions of the ’85 New Wave art movement. These works used Surrealist techniques to prophecy the human contradictions of the era of industrialization. In 1986, he joined Zhang Peili, Geng Jianyi and others to found the Pond Association. Song Ling participated in every collective art creation of that artist group, which elicited a powerful societal response at the time. At the same time, Song Ling also reached a high point in his individual creations. Between 1986 and 1987, he created a series of ink paintings entitled Meaningless Choice? In this series, Song Ling absorbed and incorporated the expressive forms and linguistic traits of photography to create numerous reproductions of the same image (mostly livestock). This approach calls to mind Walter Benjamin’s critique on the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. The artist’s depictions of these animals can also be seen as depictions of people: in the era of industrial technology and mechanical cultivation, man and livestock share the same fate.
After 1987, as the tumultuous ’85 New Wave art movement was approaching its close, Song Ling left China to study and live in Australia. Once in Australia, he continued with his already-formed unique individual style. Aside from ink painting, he also experimented with mixed-media collage, acrylic and other mediums.
The title of this exhibition, Ghosts in the Mirror, is taken from Alain Robbe-Grillet’s autobiography, the contents of which wander between autobiography and essay. The original French title of the book, Le Miroir qui Revient, references a “return” or “reemergence” in the mirror. This book’s ambiguous tones, recollections, and reflections on the creative act allow the always hazy image of Robbe-Grillet to “reemerge.” The narrative style of the work is noted for its polyphonic construction. The “reemerging” subject, the “reemerging” object, and the “reemerging” relationship to time come together to embody the narrator’s unusual artistic ability. As a mirror with the ability to summon images of memory and the past, the work transcends the limitations of conventional autobiography by acknowledging the damage inflicted upon memory by the passage of time, approaching the problem of validating the ‘objectivity’ and ‘honesty’ of the narrator from a new angle.
With regard to Song Ling, all of his works can similarly be said to be mirrors which summon both the image of incoherent narrator and the object of narration. These “Ghosts in the Mirror” allow us to see the objectivity and detachment of history and time, and at the same time see the honesty and fertile imagination that inform the spirit of the artist.